Fighting off her nerves and attempting to stay poised, former Ohio State Buckeye Carling Coffing walked down the 17th fairway at Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club with victory on her mind.
Competing against Tulane grad Lili Alvarez in 18 holes of match play to determine the champion of the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Sandals Resorts,” each golfer’s approach shot landed safely onto the 17th green.
Hands shaking and heart pounding, Coffing stood over her 25-foot putt with a chance to go 1-up with one hole to play and all but secure the match. Exhibiting the same composure that propelled her to the finals, she once again rose to the occasion and sunk the biggest putt of her life.
“When I made that putt on 17 to really seal the deal, I know it wasn’t over yet. But in my heart, I knew that I was going to be the champion,” Coffing said. “It was an indescribable feeling. You think of your family and your friends and your hard work and what’s coming up and all those thoughts in about a half a second.”
The 24-year-old’s clutch performance on the penultimate hole proved to be the turning point as Coffing stood on the 18th green amid a shower of champagne while being crowned “Big Break” champion.
Growing up on a small farm in Middletown, Ohio, Coffing began playing golf at the age of 10. If it was more than 32 degrees outside, she was out on the golf course, she said. Soon, that dedication to the sport began to pay off.
After a successful high school career, which included a state championship her junior year, Carling continued her golfing career as a Buckeye.
“I have been a Buckeye fan my entire life, and who doesn’t love the Buckeyes?” she said. “I have been cheering on Coach (Jim) Tressel since I was a little girl, and at the time, the Ohio State golf team was top 10 in the nation, so it was a perfect fit for me.”
Her skills on the links translated just fine to the collegiate level, as she earned Freshman of the Year honors in 2005 and twice garnered All-Big Ten second-team accolades. In addition to increasing her passion for golf, Carling discovered the world of broadcasting while in Columbus.
Working with CoachTressel.com and ohiostatebuckeyes.com while in school, Carling honed her broadcasting prowess. After graduation, she took both her golf game and broadcasting abilities to the next level.
Turning professional in 2008, the OSU alumna has been a member of the Duramed FUTURES Tour (the LPGA developmental tour) ever since. She even branched out with her broadcasting skills, producing her own video blog documenting life on tour for GolfChannel.com in the 2009 season.
“It is always important to have the plan B, but at this point in my career, I am not stopping until I am No. 1 in the world and that is my attitude,” Coffing said. “If you are going to go for the LPGA, you have to go at it 100 percent or you’re never going to make it.”
And “Big Break” might have provided just the confidence she needed to reach her long sought-after goal.
After failing to earn her LPGA Tour card by three strokes nearly a year ago, Carling said she was “devastated.” However, just a few weeks after the disappointment, the Golf Channel provided the ultimate pick-me-up, informing her she would be one of 11 girls on the latest installment of the show.
“When they held auditions at one of the FUTURES Tour events, they had us hit golf balls in front of the camera and they did a five-minute interview,” she said. “I convinced them that this spunky little diabetic chick had something to bring.”
She certainly did.
Surviving 10 episodes filled with an array of golf challenges, Coffing pulled out all the stops en route to being declared winner.
Along with the satisfaction of her triumph, Coffing will receive assistance in her quest toward receiving her tour card in the form of having her LPGA qualifying school paid for and receiving an exempt status for the 2010 LPGA Lorena Ochoa Invitational, among other prizes.
“She has a lot of courage and a lot of belief in herself, which I think is a vital component to making the next level,” said Therese Hession, Coffing’s former coach and current OSU women’s golf coach. “She will give it 100 percent whatever she decides to go into.”
But even with her newfound stardom, Coffing, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 5, has not lost sight of what truly matters. Promising to donate 5 percent of her earnings to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the longtime diabetic is using her status to promote the cause.
“Being diabetic is a struggle,” she said. “Although I have overcome it and done a great job of not letting it set me back, it is really time for us all to put one foot forward and find a cure for this because we are so close.”
As for Carling’s professional future, she has a revitalized confidence thanks to her big win and is currently in talks with the Golf Channel about future opportunities to appear in front of the camera.
“I really proved to myself that I can make it on tour, and that is another huge step toward making it on the LPGA,” she said. “I also realized that I really missed being in front of the camera because I really have a passion for broadcasting and I look forward to getting back into it one day. So don’t turn your TVs off yet.”